Impact Wrestling Review – February 2, 2023
A big 8-man tag team match headlined this week’s episode of Impact Wrestling as they continue on the road to No Surrender.
Impact Wrestling 2/2/23 from Oscela Heritage Park: Kissimmee, Florida
The show opened with a recap of last week’s 6-man elimination main event, where Rich Swann became the new number 1 contender for the Impact World Championship. Afterward, the Design tried to take out Swann but he was saved by Josh Alexander, Yuya Uemura and Frankie Kazarian, which set up this week’s main event.
Match #1: Bullet Club (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) vs Kevin Knight & Kushida
We are straight into the action again this week. These two teams were victorious in tag-team action last week, as they continue to push for a Tag Team Championship opportunity. I enjoyed watching Knight’s debut last week and he and Kushida make a really fun team. Knight and Bey start off the match, locking up straight away. Bey with a side headlock early and a running shoulder tackle. Knight athletically flips out of a head-scissors and Bey turns him inside out into a pin for a 2 count. Bey takes out the leg of Knight with a dropkick and hits a double-stomp. Bey hits a running chop in the corner then misses one in the opposite corner, which allows Knight to catch him with a springboard crossbody. Knight gets a 1 count and tags in Kushida. Kushida targets the elbow of Bey with an axe handle and tags Knight back in. Knight runs at Bey in the corner who drops him onto the apron. Knight slips off but recovers well and goes for a springboard clothesline but is caught in mid-air by a Bey dropkick! Fantastic spot. Bey gets a 2 count and Austin tags in to help with a double team move in the corner. Austin with a drop toe hold on Knight then Bey hits another double-stomp which allows Austin to score a nearfall. Austin tries to synch in a front facelock and drags Knight to his corner. Austin stomps away on Knight and tags Bey back in. They double team Knight while he’s on the mat and Bey hits a hard kick to the back. Another quick tag to Austin who continues to trap Knight in the corner with chops. Austin with hard kicks to the chest of Knight and another 2 count. Austin tries to trap Knight in an arm bar but Knight fight back with forearms and dives to Kushida for the tag. Kushida with hard palm strikes to both Bullet Club members and then a nice dropkick on Bey. Kushida is fired up as he dropkicks Austin through the ring ropes. Bey tries for the Art of Finesse whilst Kushida is distracted but Kushida catches him in mid-air with an armbar! Bey moves his weight onto Kushida with a pinning predicament and almost pins Kushida. Knight blind-tags in and hits a huge dropkick on Bey. Knight has a ridiculous leap. Kushida hoists Bey up onto his shoulders as Knight looks for a Doomsday Device type move but Austin catches him in mid-air, so Knight and Bey brawl on top of their opponents’ shoulders! Kushida takes out the knee of Austin, then Knight hits a big hurricanrana from a standing position on the mat. Knight with a shotgun dropkick on Bey but Austin is there to break it up. Austin fights both Kushida and Knight off with kicks, then avoids a splash from Knight in the corner. Austin nails Knight with a jumping kick and calls Bey to the top rope. Kushida cuts him off with a handspring kick then tries to take Austin off the apron but he gets nailed with a Scorpion Kick. Knight kicks Austin off the apron and then is looking to hit a springboard crossbody over the top rope, but Bey incredibly catches him in mid-air with the Art of Finesse on the ring apron! Wow! Austin rolls Knight back into the ring and Bullet Club finish him off with another Art of Finesse and then Austin with the Fold. Bey with the 3 count for the win after 10 minutes, in a great tag team opener.
Winners by pinfall: Bullet Club
Analysis: ***3/4 I thought they had great chemistry and that led to a number of spots that were really fun to watch. Another five minutes would’ve made the match even better. Knight’s vertical leap is so impressive and he gelled with Bey and Austin so seamlessly. Bullet Club finally seem to be getting the push towards a title match.
The Design are backstage and Deaner is disappointed that Sami Callihan couldn’t complete ‘Stage 3’ of the process. Deaner says he failed and that Kon said there will be consequences. Deaner says he has been where Callihan has and tonight they have to regroup and show hum mercy, because they go into battle tonight. Deaner offers Callihan redemption and says he must win tonight.
Analysis: I’m actually glad Sami didn’t win last week as I think losing to Alexander would’ve ruined his momentum. Even though he got pinned, a (presumed) title loss wouldn’t have helped.
Match #2: Gisele Shaw w/ Jay Vidal vs Savannah Evans
Shaw is coming off yet another tag team failure last week with Tara. It’s a pretty entertaining Knockouts’ lower-card feud and if it means less focus on the Death Dollz then I’m happy because they bore me. Speaking of boring, Evans cut possibly the blandest 30 second promo of the year before the match. Just let her fight! They talk trash before the match and Evans grabs Shaw by the throat then takes her to the corner with a big right hand. Shaw shows no fear with two slaps to the face, which infuriates Evans who pummels Shaw in the corner with right hands. Evans chops Shaw hard in the corner and starts choking her out. Shaw fights back with chops but Evans isn’t fazed and hits a big hip toss and a Butterfly suplex, so Shaw rolls to the outside for a reprieve.
Shaw is on the offense as we come back from the break. Shaw chokes Evans against the middle rope and then nails her with a big right hand in the corner. Shaw runs at Evans but gets caught with a Sidewalk Slam. Evans seems to wrestling in the face role here without Tasha Steelz. They exchange right hands and Evans takes control with a number of clotheslines and a big Samoan Drop. Shaw catches Evans with an elbow in the corner but runs right into a spinebuster in the centre of the ring. Evans with the Fisherman’s Suplex with a bridge and Shaw kicks out barely before 3. Nice nearfall there. Vidal gets up on the apron to distract the referee, so Shaw rakes Evans’ eyes and nails a perfect superkick. Shaw hits big running knee for the upset win after 5 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Gisele Shaw
Analysis: *** I liked that. I thought they worked well together and there were no slow moments, that there can tend to be when a taller athlete like Evans is in there. Shaw continues to improve and that was as good as her offense has looked for a while. Good to see her back on the winner’s list.
After the match, Shaw grabs the microphone and tells the fans to shut up as they boo her. Shaw address the nickname being given to her backstage as ‘The Black Widow of Impact Wrestling’ because she kills all the tag teams she starts. Shaw says she doesn’t care about Tasha Steelz, Chelsea Green or the Influence who are all gone because of her. Shaw says she’s not meant to be in a tag team but the spotlight should be solely on her.
Analysis: Shaw struggled through that a bit because it was straight after a very physical match. Tasha Steelz’ contract is up in a few months but she is taking some time off as of now.
Backstage, Kenny King runs into two random dudes and asks what they are talking about. They say they’re talking about Rich Swann so King steals their bag of chips. Zicky Dice and Johnny Swinger show up and they’re talking about Dirty Dango. King starts to fire up, so Dice steals his chips, and tells him if he wants a fight he can face Johnny Swinger. Swinger doesn’t look please but Dice says if they want a Tag Team Championship shot then they need to start winning matches.
Analysis: It was slightly amusing with the chip-stealing but Swinger and Dice don’t win matches so it won’t be that interesting later on.
Kenny King is happy to hear from Director of Authority, Santino Marella, that he faces Johnny Swinger later on tonight. Steve Maclin walks in and reminds Marella that he beat the new #1 contender, Rich Swann, at Hard to Kill. Maclin wants Marella to make it a Triple Threat at No Surrender. Santino says no, but sets up 4 singles matches where the winners will face off in a Fatal-4-Way at No Surrender. The winner will get to face the winner of Alexander/Swann. Maclin isn’t impressed and starts to fire up but Dirty Dango steps in. Marella asks what he’s doing and Dango tries to convince Marella to let him be his Deputy. Marella tells Dango he’s in a qualifying match and to go away.
Analysis: More matches set up for tonight and No Surrender, which is a good thing.
Match #3: Crazzy Steve w/ Black Taurus vs Sheldon Jean
Jean was dominated by Jonathan Gresham in 3 minutes last week so let’s see how he fares this week. Sheldon has the height advantage and takes down Steve hard to the mat as the match begins. He misses a big clothesline so Steve takes him down with a snapmare and then bites Jean’s forehead. Steve with a big clothesline in the corner and follows up with a running uppercut. Steve with a cannonball in the corner and nails Jean with Belladonna’s Kiss for the win after 2 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Crazzy Steve
Analysis: *1/2 A quick match to put over Steve, who is not in any feud apart from accompanying Black Taurus in his hunt for the X-Division title. After the match Miguel attacks Taurus from behind on the outside of the ring. He sneaks into the ring and nails Steve from behind with the spray can. He is about to brand Steve, but Steve bites his fingers and then tags himself with Miguel’s logo again.
Analysis: Perhaps it’s Steve vs Miguel next on the agenda in the X-Division, seeing as Taurus hasn’t been able to get the job done on multiple occasions.
Gia Miller is backstage with Jordynne Grace. Miller wants Grace to comment on the controversy of Mickie James tapping (or not tapping) at Hard to Kill during their championship match. Grace says the fans can make up their mind for themselves but she still has a guaranteed rematch. Grace challenges the debuting Steph De Lander (formerly Persia Pirotta from NXT) to a match for next week.
Analysis: De Lander is straight into the furnace next week it seems. Should be good.
Santino is backstage with Hall of Famer, Raven. He calls Raven a genius and asks him for advice. Raven asks that if Santino wants to make money for Impact Wrestling, then he should make Raven the champ. Raven argues that people pay to see the champ and they pay to see him. Santino isn’t convinced and walks away. Reese (from WCW) asks if Raven is getting the Flock back together but Raven tells him to shut up.
Analysis: I’m not sure Raven’s business model holds up in 2023. Most of these Santino segments have a purpose, but this one was a waste of time.
Promo time with Bully Ray
Bully slowly walks to the ring and abuses some fans at ringside. The chants are starting “You tapped out” loudly at Bully, to which he is not amused. Bully starts to speak and the boos drown him out. Bully says he’s starting to get the feeling that people around here don’t like him: the wrestlers, management, even the fans. The camera pans to a little girl in the crowd who is crying. Bully says the new man in charge obviously doesn’t like him either because he didn’t include him in the elimination match last week. Bully reminds Santino of what happened to Scott D’Amore when he messed with Bully. Bully then starts ripping on Tommy Dreamer. He says he’s never liked Dreamer and only tolerates him. Bully says he’s the most honest guy in the room who tells it like it is. Bully says Dreamer is the biggest phony in the wrestling business. He says Dreamer wants to be loved by everyone and he’s a snake. Mickie James’ music hits and she’s here to return the favour on Bully who interrupted her championship celebration a few weeks back. Mickie says she’s watched Bully and Dreamer not getting along for years. Mickie says Bully is a hypocrite for calling Dreamer a politicking snake. She says Bully likes honesty, well she is telling it like it is and tells Bully to get out of Impact Wrestling. Bully asks what Mickie’s problem is. He warns Mickie to be careful because she knows what he can do to her. Bully reminds her that he slammed her in the match 2 weeks back. He asks what happens if he did worse. Bully says he should take the high road, but he’s Bully so he won’t. He calls Mickie champ, “Or should I say tramp?” so Mickie slaps him hard. Bully scoop slams Mickie in the centre of the ring. John Skyler and Jason Hotch run down the ramp and get a table from under the ring. Tommy Dreamer is back and runs to Mickie’s defense. Dreamer says after 30 years, it’s going to end between them one way or another. Dreamer challenges the Good Hands to a match against him and Mickie James. Skyler and Hotch want nothing to do with it but here comes Santino who tells Dreamer that he can’t make matches. But Santino can! Skyler and Hotch don’t want the match but Santino tells them that “Tommy the Dreamer” is ready to go in his gym gear. Santino shows some mercy and leaves the match to next week. He bans “Bobby Ray” from ringside and says he will be fired if he interferes.
Analysis: Sometimes I wonder if I am imagining some of the gaffes that Santino does and have to rewind the segment just to check. He’s a goofball but so smooth with his delivery. That’s another interesting match for next week. I hope we don’t get Dreamer vs Bully at No Surrender.
Hannifan and Rehwoldt plug the 8-man tag match for later on tonight. Killer Kelly cuts a pre-taped promo on Taylor Wilde but Wilde interrupts her and clarifies that she wants to be her tag team partner, not fight her. Suddenly, the Death Dollz appear and spell it out to Kelly that a tag team match between the teams is on the horizon. Taya Valkyrie doesn’t look too thrilled at facing Kelly.
Analysis: That’s a new tag team for the division. I’d prefer Kelly and Wilde as singles competitors but whilst Mickie is facing Masha, a tag alliance sounds okay to me.
Match #4: Johnny Swinger vs Kenny King
King dominates from the outset and Swinger is cowering in the corner. Dice gets up on the apron to try to distract King. King nails Swinger with a Scorpion Kick and then the Royal Flush for the win after 1 minute.
Winner by pinfall: Kenny King
Analysis: * It gets 1 star only because King was on TV.
King gets on the microphone and puts the champions of Impact Wrestling on notice. He messes up a little bit as he finishes off his promo and spells his name out to the crowd: K-I-N-G.
Masha Slamovich is backstage and is stopped by Bully Ray. Bully introduces himself, but says she probably knew his name already. Bully says that Mickie James has disrespected Masha significantly lately. Bully says Mickie hasn’t even acknowledged Masha yet. Bully says that the Good Hands will take care of her next week and then Masha will become champion at No Surrender. Bully says she knows Masha won’t let Mickie get away with it at No Surrender. Masha says something to Bully in Russian and walks off.
Matt Cardona and Brian Myers cut a (purposely) lame rap promo on Joe Hendry. One of the lines talked about Cardona taking Hendry’s mum on a date, to which Myers reminds Cardona that he’s married. One of the Impact camera crew walked past and yelled out how much they loved the Edge’s bitch song. Cardona is furious and says Hendry is ruining his life.
Analysis: Silly fun here. It’s Hendry vs Cardona for the Digital Media Championship next week.
Next week’s show is looking solid:
* Impact Digital Media Championship: Joe Hendry (c) vs Matt Cardona
* No Surrender Qualifying match: Brian Myers vs Dirty Dango
* No Surrender Qualifying match: PCO vs Shera
* Taylor Wilde and Killer Kelly vs Death Dollz
* Jordynne Grace vs Steph De Lander
Match #5: 8-Man Tag Team match: Impact World Champion Josh Alexander, Yuya Uemura, Frankie Kazarian and Rich Swann vs The Design (Deaner, Angels, Kon) & Sami Callihan
Yuya Uemura has gone from BTI to the main event in a matter of weeks! Good for him. Swann and Deaner are starting the match off but Deaner tags Callihan straight in. Callihan focuses on a wrist lock early and hits an upper cut. Angels tags in and goes to work on Swann with left hands. Angels whips Swann into the corner but he jumps off the middle rope and connects with a clothesline. Swann tags in Uemura. Uemura hits a nice dropkick for a 2 count early on. Deaner and Alexander tag in simultaneously. Deaner slaps Alexander in the face and they exchange chops. Deaner starts to bite Alexander’s forehead and backs him into the heel corner. All 8 men then get into the ring and the brawl is on! Alexander clotheslines Kon out of the ring and follows up with a crossbody through the bottom rope. On the outside, Swann hits a cannonball to a crowd of bodies.
Back from the break and Uemura is backed into the corner and Kazarian tags himself in. Kaz chops Angels hard against the ring ropes. Kaz hits a Russian Legsweep and leg drops Callihan against the ropes as he tries to interfere. Kaz hits a springboard legdrop on Angels then tags in Swann. They hit a double hip toss on Angels and Swann gets a 2 count. Angels bounces back and catches Swann in mid-air with a slam. Deaner tags in and bites at the head of Swann. He hits a scoop slam and drops the knee on Swann’s forehead. Kon tags in next and stomps away at Swann in the corner. Kon squeezes and claws at the face of Swann then tags in Callihan. Callihan gets a few shots in to Swann and tags Deaner back in. They double team the leg of Swann and then Deaner dropkicks Swann into the middle turnbuckle for a 2 count. Angels tags in and continues to pummel away at Swann in the corner. They exchange strikes and Angels hits a neckbreaker. Kon tags in again and he hits a back body drop where Swann landed on his face as a 360 spin. Deaner is in now and pulls Swann down by his dreadlocks. Swann dives to his corner for a tag but Deaner catches him in mid-air by the leg. Deaner drags Swann back to the Design’s corner and tags Kon in. Kon takes a few quick shots in, then tags Callihan. Callihan needs a longer shirt as he is spending most of his ring time pulling it down. He tosses Swann to the outside for Kon to deal with, but Kon runs into the post in a missed attack. Swann hits an enziguiri on Callihan back in the ring and tags Alexander in. Alexander hands out German suplexes to all of the Design apart from Kon, who tags in now. Alexander attempts another German but Kon is too heavy. Alexander connects with a diving knee to the side of Kon’s head and gets a 2 count. Alexander locks the anklelock in on Kon. Kon uses his strength to kick Alexander off to his corner. Uemura tags in and Kon makes it to Callihan. Uemura tries a fury of strikes but they don’t faze Callihan. Callihan goes for his ‘thumbs up’ routine but Deaner stops him because they don’t tolerate that in the Design. Alexander is back in the ring and takes Deaner and Callihan with a clothesline. Deaner wriggles free of the C4 Spike attempt and hits a facebuster and a clothesline. Swann hits a big kick on Deaner to send him out of the ring. Angels nails him with an overhead suplex then runs into a DDT from Kaz. Kon nails Kaz with a spinebuster then Uemura catches him with a Uranage. Callihan tries the Cactus Driver but Yuya blocks it with an enziguiri. He goes to the top but Deaner hangs him up in the ropes. Callihan destroys Uemura with the Cactus Driver 97 for the win after 13 minutes. Impact went off the air with Deaner looking pleased with Callihan.
Winners by pinfall: The Design & Sami Callihan
Analysis: ***1/2 I thought that was an entertaining main event, even though the result was very predictable. I had a feeling it would be Uemura taking the pin too, which is fine as he’s the least established star on his team. I would’ve liked a bit more time for Swann to shine in this match. They put over his toughness a bit, but he spent a lot of the match being beatdown, which is not a great way to sell him as a title threat after his big win last week. The story with the Design continues to be interesting and going forward Callihan might be losing the ‘Sami’ name (is Vince working in Impact now?!) as the ring announcer just announced him as ‘Callihan’ at the end of the match. It makes sense, as the Design all have single names.
.@TheSamiCallihan is ONE STEP CLOSER to The DESIGN!#IMPACTonAXSTVpic.twitter.com/vaOC3y8BHg
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) February 3, 2023
Final Rating: 6.5/10
Thankfully, this was a better show than last week due to 3 matches that were very good. The first half of the show was fantastic, then we saw some squash matches in the middle, before the main event bounced back with a fun brawl. I enjoyed the opening tag team match the most as I felt like the two teams clicked really well together and would’ve been happy with either team emerging as the winner there. Perhaps Bullet Club go on to face the Motor City Machine Guns at No Surrender. It looks likely. There was also some interesting storyline progression between Mickie/Masha and Bully/Dreamer and they added an intriguing match next week between Mickie/Dreamer and the Good Hands. I’m looking forward to next week’s show already.
Any feedback or comments are welcome. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org in case anybody wants to get in touch with me and my Twitter handle is @thomok6 as well. Thanks for reading!